A Tour Of Brazil’s Costa Verde At Leisure
Rio de Janeiro
After years of being in the international spotlight as host of the World Cup and Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro has wowed the world over with its unique culture and tropical appeal. Yes, it is a frenetic place where one can easily get swept up in a whirlwind of adventure activities, dancing, and the Carnival, the biggest party on the planet. Yet, for those interested in seeing Rio and its surroundings at a more leisurely pace, opportunities abound to hop from one of oasis of peace to another.
ipanema or Leblon beach
Most international visitors arrive here via the International Airport (GIG) located in the northern region of the city. Since this coastal city is far away from pretty much everywhere else, you will likely be tired on arrival.
After checking in to your accommodations, head over to either Ipanema or Leblon beach for some prime relaxation. Making up the southern border of the city, this contiguous strand of powder soft sand facing the Atlantic will melt off your fatigue. As a less crowded (and rambunctious) alternative to Copacabana Beach, you will find yourself amid families and locals alike in search of some sun and surf in (relatively) peaceful surroundings.
Author’s note: To really relax, order yourself a Caipirinha – a powerful drink consisting of some locally-made cachaça (a sugarcane based spirit) mixed with fresh lime juice. Think of a high-octane mojito without the mint and you’ll get the picture.
And when you’ve de-stressed enough, stick around the area for some upscale shopping and fine dining opportunities.
Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain
Today’s Rio tour comprises a guided tour visit to one, or preferably both of its most iconic attractions – Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain.
If the weather is clear, head first over to Urca to catch the tram ride up to Sugarloaf early in the morning. Lines can be long but move rather quickly.
Your first stop will be halfway up on Morro de Urca. From there you can make your way to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain itself, to be treated with gorgeous ocean views on one side, and an unmatched urban panorama on the other. You will easily see why the harbor of Rio de Janeiro was designated one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Author’s note: this site is wheelchair accessible and kid friendly as well.
Most identifiable for its larger-than-life statue of Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado offers a dizzying look at Rio’s urban tapestry, with ultra-rich high-rises looming over a backdrop of dilapidated shantytowns (favelas) hanging precariously from impossibly steep cliffs. You will once again marvel over incomparable harbor views from this peaceful perch.
Afterwards, make your way back down to Copacabana Beach for dinner at dusk and a little more action in the form of nightlife, bars and restaurants before returning to your hotel.
Get up early and make your way to Rio’s impressive Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botanico), part of the Tijuca Rainforest, the largest urban rainforest in the world. There is a wealth of flora and fauna to be explored here, including orchids, toucans and much more.
Once you’ve had your fill, a private car for an approximately two-hour ride along Brazil’s Costa Verde can get you to either the small town of Concepciao de Jacarei, or larger Angra Dos Reis. Here, take either a schooner or inflatable Zodiac ride over to the hulking silhouette of lovely Ilha Grande.
Author’s note: Make sure your tour guide has arranged these tickets prior to you visit for greater peace of mind.
Once ashore, settle into your pousada (small boutique hotel) and perhaps have some dinner in the only real town on the island – Abraao, nestled along the leeward shore and a great place to dine right on the beach.
Ilha Grande’s famous beach - Lopes Mendes
As a pedestrian-only island, you can either hike for several hours or catch a ferry to get to Ilha Grande’s most famous beach, Lopes Mendes. Either way, make it to this glittering crescent of white sand backed by lush green jungle to watch surfers at play, catch some rays and enjoy uma cerveja estupidamente gelada (literally translated as: a stupidly cold beer).
Retrace your steps for the return, and if you did not dine at the beach the night before, make certain to do so tonight.
After that you can do a little shopping in the shallow backstreets before returning to your hotel.
Dois Rios Beach
If you’re really motivated, hike out to tranquil Dois Rios Beach or take an organized tour. But if you want a little island time at your own pace, just east of Abraao is the entrance to Ilha Grande State Park, where an easy loop path will bring you to secluded beaches, hidden jungle pools, and the ruins of the old prison which was once the island’s claim to fame.
Whatever you choose, you can be sure to get your fill of nature and tranquility before taking another boat crossing to the mainland and onward transportation for an evening arrival in the charmingly-preserved colonial town of Paraty (or Parati).
Book a schooner tour of the surrounding area this morning. You will be taken to several of the hundreds of islets that populate Paraty Bay for refreshing dips in emerald waters, impressive views of the rising mountains, and the chance to see massive pods of dolphins as you hop from one beach to another.
Coming back to port at sunset makes for a magical scene as Paraty’s whitewashed buildings with multicolor trim will fill your view in front of a hazy, jungle-clad mountain backdrop.
In town, wander the (very-uneven) cobblestone streets for handicrafts, works from local artists and kitschy souvenirs. Many restaurants arrange for outdoor seating in the historic center, exuding a pervasively festive atmosphere once the sun goes down.
Shopping and Departure
All good things must come to an end, but if your schedule allows, enjoy some early morning shopping in the historic center before catching your bus or transfer for the 4.5-5-hour ride back to Rio for your flight home.
While there’s still plenty more to see and do, this seven-day itinerary through Brazil’s Costa Verde is a leisurely way to enjoy the best there is on offer.
Rio de Janeiro
Contributed By : Ben PastoreTourHQ Experiences
This itinerary is contributed by Ben, an experienced traveler. If you request this tour, different guides will give you their versions of this itinerary. Be sure to confirm with them on what's included before booking.